Writing the first blog post on our new website gives me the same sort of feeling that I had as a child at school when I was given a new exercise book - really excited at starting something new but a little bit nervous, in case that "first mark" I made was about to mess everything up!
It strikes me as fortunate (but entirely coincidental) that this website is up and running at a time of new beginnings; we are just weeks away from a General Election, as a Parish we are beginning to explore new ways of working and ministering together and I am not so very far away from being the brand new Priest in Charge at St Thomas's.
New beginnings are always opportunities to "make our mark". The election of course requires us to literally do that - the mark on the ballot paper as a definitive expression of our opinion. In other ways too though ,having the opportunity to make a mark, to show, or say what we believe is really important. Not only important, but really valuable, too.
But how does that make us feel? What if that opportunity to make that mark actually leaves us with mixed feelings, like mucking up the first page in a pristine exercise book? Well, making that mark always involves an element of risk ... what if I start a sentence and then can't finish it? What if my pencil breaks? What if people disagree with what I write or don't like it? All of those things are possible, but the simple act of making a mark, raising your voice, expressing an opinion is worth it not because of the outcome but because of the act itself. All of these "new beginnings" are valuable for their own sake and sometimes, that knowledge can make us brave enough to try, even in the face of our anxiety over the pencil breaking, or nobody agreeing or our voice not being heard.
You might think this is just some homespun whimsy by the new priest (see, that's my anxiety talking), but actually, the Bible suggests that God is no stranger to new beginnings and neither is Jesus. To take just a couple of examples, a prophecy in Isaiah 43:18-19 says "Behold. I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it"? In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion that he is giving them a new Commandment, that they love one another (John 13:34)
Jesus wasn't phased by people expressing their opinions or disagreement either; take Thomas, our patron saint - he was a follower of Jesus and yet said that he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead unless he saw for himself. Did Jesus condemn him? No, he very obligingly popped in the next day so that Thomas could see for himself ... and believed.
Neither does Jesus mind how many new beginnings we need to get it right. He would rather we made our mark, scribbled it out and tried again, than didn't write, say, or do, anything at all. He would rather see us surrounded by scattered exercise books with ripped out pages than a pile of pristine new ones, untouched for fear of error.
So, at this time of new beginnings, if you have an opportunity to make a mark, do it - even if that mark is different to everyone else's; it will be worth it because it is yours. If you have an opinion to express or a question to ask - come and see us - we'd be very glad to hear it - because it will be new - and it will be yours
God bless you. I hope I get to hear what you have to say soon. Have a look around the rest of this site and let me know what you think!